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Emirates Restarts Flights To Hong Kong And Breaks Record For Onboard Coronavirus Cases

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It’s been been a tough few months for aviation, as the situation in Europe and East Asia gradually starts improving whereas the situation in the Middle East/South Asia and the Americas continues to deteriorate. My heart goes out to those who have been affected by the coronavirus – if that’s you, I wish that you and your family well, and feel free to reach out if you have any travel-related needs (I’ll most likely redirect you to my most trusted external resources, though, since there’s not much I know how to do).

Emirates had a particularly tough time as the UAE had closed their borders from March 25th until recently. The country plans to reopen tourism soon in order to boost their economy, but for now they’ve allowed UAE residents to return and depart, with mandatory testing upon arrival. The country reopens to tourists on July 7th this year.

an airplane at an airportEmirates Boeing 777 Hong Kong Airport

Unfortunately their return to Hong Kong was a bit of a rough one. In place of two A380 direct flights on top of a 777, they now operate a single 777 flight between Dubai and Hong Kong, and the flight may have just broken the record for the most coronavirus cases contracted onboard for any international flight in the world.

The EK 380 flight flying from Dubai to Hong Kong on June 20, 2020 carried 26 passengers that later tested positive, whereas the same flight on the following day currently reports 19 positive cases. In contrast, a Qatar Airways flight made headlines for carrying 12 passengers from Doha to Athens who later tested positive for coronavirus, causing the Greek government to ban all flights from Qatar.

In both cases all of these passengers were spread out across the economy class cabin, and were not seated in a particular cluster. Hong Kong has strict quarantining measures where all non-residents are not allowed entry and residents must undergo testing upon arrival (which can last up to 8 hours) and a 14-day home quarantine, so these cases are unlikely to affect the community – though no one can be sure.

a person standing in an airplaneEmirates Boeing 777 Economy Class

All of these cases were from people being repatriated from Pakistan, where last week there was a spike in cases. It’s unknown whether any of these passengers contracted the virus from Pakistan, or along the way. In Dubai all passengers are required to wear face masks and undergo thermal screening, though none of these passengers had symptoms on the way back to Hong Kong.

Bottom Line

The chance of transmission when wearing face masks is hugely decreased (from 95% to 1.5%), and as of late airlines have implemented many additional cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of any residual coronavirus. That being said, this serves as a reality check that flying should be used as a tool for repatriation and migration, not for leisure or entertainment at this moment. The question of when we can return to flying for fun remains unanswered, but it isn’t now.


    1. @ TC – Given relatively low cases in both HK and London, a much stronger desire to fly direct, as well as lectures moving online for first term! I’ll be back as usual, though.

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